The Choice

September 26, 2022

Swortzel+and+Reece+hold+their+newborn+son%2C+Winston%2C+shortly+before+his+passing.

Courtesy of Lydia Swortzel

Swortzel and Reece hold their newborn son, Winston, shortly before his passing.

After a few sleepless nights, many tears and prayers, the Swortzels decided to go with the latter option — to wait until 24 weeks, knowing that Winston would die shortly after birth, but Oliver would have a much higher chance of surviving. 

On a Wednesday, Swortzel hit 24 weeks. Less than 48 hours later, her babies were born. 

Swortzel held Winston in her arms as he passed. Before he died, her husband carried him to the window to show him the sunrise — the sun illuminating a world he would never experience. ”

Oliver was rushed to the NICU, and he was administered the Apgar test, which measures how much life there is in an infant. The exam measures the newborn’s skin color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone and breathing rate. Overall, the best possible score a newborn could receive is a 10, although few do. Oliver scored a one. Winston, a zero.

While Oliver was carried away to be treated, Winston remained with his parents. He had a faint heartbeat, but he had been without oxygen for too long. 

Swortzel held Winston in her arms as he passed. Before he died, her husband carried him to the window to show him the sunrise — the sun illuminating a world he would never experience. 

They slept that night at the hospital with Winston in a crib beside them. The nurse told them to call when they were ready for the nurses to take him. “Ready?” Swortzel thought. “How can anyone ever be ready for that?” Crying, Swortzel called the nurse and watched her take him away. 

The Swortzels describe Winston as “his brother’s savior” and “their little hero.” They think about him ever day and desperately wish he were with them. Still, they are thankful for the choice they had. Swortzel says her right to choose her medical treatment resulted in Oliver’s life. 

“We’re very lucky,” Swortzel said. “I say that and a lot of people respond, ‘Oh really, are you? Because you lost a baby.’ But we really are because we could have lost two babies. I could have been forced to deliver both of them and never gotten to know either of them.” 

Oliver stayed in the NICU for 123 days. He was still very sick, but persevered. Today, he is 18 months old without any health issues and is meeting all the milestones.

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